Monday, August 30, 2010

You and Me Night

This is Eric. Ever since Pearce was 2, he and I have had what he calls "you-and-me-night" once a week. (He'll wake up and immediately ask me, Is tonight you-and-me-night). We'll leave the house, or sometimes stay in if Wendi has somewhere to go, and party it up. We'll go to the beach, do a night hike, go to a movie, play video games, or sometimes just play guys for three hours. With the exception of my bi-month date with Wendi, there's nothing I look forward to more. In Saigon, you-and-me-night was off the hook, mainly because activities were so cheap, but also because what ever activity we did we had to ride motorcycles to get there, which meant Pearce got to pretend he was Batman, or Spiderman, shooting all the other drivers.

Bumper cars

Games were especially cool because, for the first time in my life, I could afford to win the entire game. Granted, I recognized most of the games from my youth. But Pearce didn't know the difference. We'd usually conquer the entire game for under $3.

Conversations with Pearce

1. Eric (responding to a question from Wendi about how he'll get ready for work if he bikes there): "I'll just bring my toiletries to work."
Pearce: "Toilet Trees? There's no toilet trees in this country!
You're so funny, Dad."

2. At a restaurant, Pearce grabbed one of the freshly baked french rolls, put it up to his ear, squeezed softly, and said," This is good bread. I know because the sound of the crunch." He learned this from Disney's Ratatouille.

3. I came down to breakfast and found my boys reading the newspaper.... Vietnamese. Pearce looks up and says "The Bietnamese (how Pearce pronounces Vietnamese) paper is a good read today, Mom."

4. Pearce has a box of foreign money that he has collected. He looks at every piece every time he is in his room. Actually, "caresses" is the proper word. Even in the middle of the night I have found him awake, handling and admiring his money. When I gave him some Vietnamese money Pearce said, "Look Mom the Bietnamese (Vietnamese) put windows in their money."

Pearce is always carrying around some action figures. One of the mornings at breakfast I noticed that Pearce's Darth Vader guy was positioned like this:

Mom: "What's up with Darth Vader?"
Pearce: "He has a stomach ache. Most likely gas. So I told him to put his bum in the air to help him feel better."

6. This is how I know Pearce will be a really good brother. He takes such good care of his special elephant Elli. Like when we leave for dinner, Pearce will put his Elli to bed with a movie to watch.
He'll even pause it for her if he has to do something and gets in the way of the screen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Water Park in Saigon

It's no Wet'n Wild. And it's certainly no Waimea Bay. But Saigon's Dam Sen Water Park really wasn't too bad. For Pearce, at least, it was sensational. A nice respite from the heat and dirt of the city. He went three times. Once with me and Eric and our friend Thanh and his nieces and nephews, and the other two times with just Eric. Each time he was able to practice his new swimming skills in front of peers, and even went down the dark tunnel slide. Here are some highlights.

Pearce and Eric on the lazy river.

They just missed the crazy teenagers.

Making friends despite the lack of a common language.

We were humming Sesame Street's "One of these Things is not like the Other" a lot.

Water park montage.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Salon Day

There are two very different ways to get your hair cut in Vietnam. One is a guy who hangs a 5 by 2 inch mirror from a tree, or the second is a full salon experience, including an hour head massage, a manicure, pedicure and cucumber facial. Today, Eric and Pearce had the full salon experience while I had my legs waxed.

This guy is one of the upper market street barbers. His mirror is large.

Eric is having his one hour head massage.

While all the salon girls play with Pearce.

Peace's pedicured toes, and below, manicured hands, upon which they applied clear nail polish.

I only went to Anthony George for London Hair and beauty for color and cut. Ask for Anthony he is the best and fun to chat with. He knows everyone in Vietnam. And has the buzz on everyone.

The Spa at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Pearce took this picture of me getting a Pedicure.

Pearce is a dream to take. Especially if I have the Itouch for him to play with.

I have to say our favorite event in Saigon, other than eating, is getting a massage. It was, however, hard to find a massage place that would massage a pregnant girl. Several places turned me away because of a belief that massaging me would A) induce labor or B) make my baby stupid. At least they cared. But at last we found an establishment willing to take the risk. My Spa, 15C4 Thi Sach Street. District 1, HCMC. My favorite masseuse was Massage Lady No. 10. We went once or twice a week. At 10 dollars for 2 hours (with tip) how could you not.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Got milk?

This is one of many promotional signs to "drink milk" found on every street corner in Saigon. Drinking milk in Vietnam is a brand new concept that was formed by some government think tank to boost healthy living. Unfortunately, 95% of Vietnamese can't afford fresh or shelved milk and most Vietnamese can't even drink it without a stomach ache. We asked everyone we knew and they confirmed the above points. too funny.

This is the fresh milk from the Highlands of Vietnam. It's expensive, 2 USD for this little carton that lasts us a day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Swim Lessons

Our goal this summer was to rid Pearce of his swim muscles. A month before we left Hawaii I put Pearce into Ewa Swim with Coach Curtis. He learned to jump into the pool and retrieving a ring from the bottom, float on his back and stomach holding his breath for 10 seconds. Once in Vietnam, I took Pearce to the pool to practice. He was getting more comfortable swimming underwater, so we found a private swim teacher some of the other residency parents were using. Her name is Ms. Ngan. She focused on stroke technique.

Pearce flexing his swim muscles.

Pearce's swim teacher started with proper kicking with a kick board. Then moved on to the arms.

Pearce practicing his back and front float, and his first swim lesson.

Second and third swim lesson.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth swim lesson.

Play time.

Pearce tried out some flippers he borrowed from a friend and loved swimming with them.

A montage of Pearce's pool stunt; back flip, front flip, dolphin dive, back float, submarine dive.

Misson accomplished. No swim muscles. Yeah Pearce.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Music Lessons

We felt Pearce was ready to start music lessons. What instrument, though, we weren't sure. We found a summer camp program at the Ho Chi Minh City Academy of Music. The music teacher, Mr. Erin, started with the basics like understanding low to high notes, rhythm, and reading notes, such as tah and tee-tee. He introduced a new instrument every week. This week was all about the guitar.

Mr. Erin teaching guitar.

Pearce checking out his guitar.

Pearce loved music camp and declared his desire to learn the drums and guitar. So we signed him up for private lessons. Born rocker.

Pearce with his private music teacher Janel. Pearce won his Music Academy hat because he could name all the parts of the drum. He wore it two weeks straight.

Pearce's first and second drum lessons.

Pearce's third drum lesson and first guitar lesson.

Pearce's forth drum lesson. He is playing a three rhythm combo on the high hat, snare drum, and base drum.

Janel said Pearce has a natural proclivity for drums because he multi-tasks so well, enabling him to move his hands at a different rhythm than his feet. Janel was also very pleased with how Pearce remembered what he learned from the previous weeks without practicing or being reminded. Hey. I'm allowed to brag. I gave birth to him. Now we're just hoping to find a good drum teacher in Hawaii, which will be tough because Janel was such a perfect fit.

Thanks Janel!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saigon's Nortre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon is, in many ways, the heart of Saigon. During big celebrations--Christian or not--the square surrounding this church becomes choked with humanity. But on most days the wide boulevards surrounding it are among the most traffic free intersections in the city. We were lucky enough to be staying one block away--literally a two-minute walk from our front door. Of course, we waited to make a proper visit until the last few weeks of our stay, once I was good and preggers. Our friend Duy, one of the most staunch of Vietnam's 15 or so million Catholics, gave us the tour.

It was designed by the French architect Bouvard in 1877-1880 on what is believed to be the site of an ancient pagoda. Constructed of granite and red brick from Europe in a Neo-Romanesque style with twin spires.

The front of the Cathedral with a statue of the Virgin Mary. I am seven month pregnant. People surround Mary with candles 24/7. Weekends and holidays it's packed. And, like so many inanimate Marys, there are claims that about two years ago she shed actual tears. The Vatican didn't recognize it as an official miracle, but that didn't stop the throngs from pouring in. Duy explained that probably 25% of the people who came to see her cry and light a candle or two for good merit were Buddhists.

The back end.

Prayers to the Virgin Mary. No, Pearce is not praying.

People pay a handsome sum to have a brick made and plastered inside. Most simply express thanks to Mary for some assist she dished out. There are many French and American ones.

Eric had Pearce believing that the statue came alive at night, walked around the city, and ate pigeons (which is why they're always pooping on her during the day). This, I suppose, is how we parents warp humanity--one ridiculous tale after another to spare them--and ourselves--of boredom.

Feeding the birds.

In Vietnam's cities, grassy areas are off limits. Most are policed to make sure no one walks or lays on these rare patches of green. We told our Vietnamese friends that we run and play on grassy areas in America. They normally stared back in unbelief, and sometimes argued that grass is not for running on--doing so would kill the grass.